Working Through (Not so) Micro-Aggressions
In December 2016, I was working for a small company after two previously failed journeys with two different companies that ended miserably. I came into this new role as the Operations Manager. It would be my first time in this role full time but I had run a business like this before as a manager. The good things were that the GM and I had both worked together in both of those previous two companies. We also were fully invested in this opportunity and one another knowing that we both needed some career remediation.
It didn’t take me long to recognize in this new company that there were cultural red flags all over the place. One of those flags was embodied as an outside salesperson. Let’s call her Jamie. Jamie had been with the company for about 18 months before I arrived. After a few days, I began to see I was in a business that hadn’t performed an inventory in 10 years, an uninspired group working in the warehouse and counter sales area, and inefficiency in how orders were pulled, sorted, and delivered to customers. These items were major disabilities and a source of animosity for the outside sales team.
Immediately, Jamie & I bumped heads. She constantly blamed others in our business, including those under my stead, for her shortcomings and mistakes. Most of those mistakes were rooted in that this was her first sales job, she didn’t know the product she was selling, and she was handed the top sales accounts by the owner of the business who hired her but wasn’t involved in the day-to-day operation on-site. I learned to rely on other people in our business to communicate what my groups could and couldn’t do while also avoiding this salesperson’s toxic nature. In the meantime, she continued to throw tantrums, explode into expletive filled rants, and go over the GMs head whenever her personal needs weren’t met.
Things came to a head one day when Victor, the GM, asked me to come to his office to meet with him and Jamie quickly. We began talking and planning through a contentious situation involving one of my groups. Inevitably, the conversation became intense and began to reach it’s peak when she expressed how she was bringing all the business into our profit center and we were all holding her back. I replied, “What do you want, a cookie?” She stormed out of the GM’s office, slammed his door so hard flakes of acoustic ceiling tile fell from above, and she raged into the hallway yelling curse words and mowing over anyone in her path.
I drove off and went to an observation parking lot near Hobby Airport to watch the planes takeoff and land. I knew I would be fired. My fears were confirmed I went back to our office. She had called the owner who told Victor to fire me. It was one week before Christmas.
Whether you agree that I was at fault in my reaction or not, I failed because I wasn’t able to find a viable solution to working with someone who was inevitably a part of my success.
The valuable lessons I learned were:
Know thyself. If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to gain traction with management or other advocates, avoid potential hotspots. Hot spots may include communication like emails or meetings where things may turn volatile. If you can’t avoid those situations eat a snack or drink water before or during the meeting. You’d be surprised how your physical health can affect a situation.
Know your people. Victor and I were both in a situation where he, ultimately, had no power over Jamie. He tried to manage her and her temper as well, but he eventually met the same fate I did.
Know your situation. I was determined to make THIS situation work because of the scars I was still nursing from the previous situations. The truth is that sometimes you may leave one harmful situation for another. It happens.
Know when to get out. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned throughout my career is that even though jobs are hard to find nothing can is more valuable than your inner peace. Yes, fight for your career. Yes, stand up with confidence for what is right and for your rights in the face of antagonistic forces. But always know where the “EXIT” door is so you can leave on your own terms.